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The 2018 Comedian Combine

There is a comedy boom going on. That is a great thing for some comedians, but with the numbers of comedians in American swelling to astronomical numbers, some comedians are going to extreme lengths to get a leg up in the business. And the clubs, Netflix and writers’ rooms are taking notice.  Here is my special report from the 2018 Comedian Combine:

 

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The No-Name Comedian Manifesto for 2017

As 2016 rapidly approaches its conclusion I am reflecting on a year that has been by far my most successful financially as a comedian and also in some ways the most frustrating.  I have made the most money of any year, in part thanks to royalty payments for my albums, in part thanks to President-Elect Donald Trump and in part thanks to 13 years of diligence in trying to get booked as a feature at as many comedy clubs as I am able.  I had an album reach #1 on iTunes and have made repeated performances on the top podcasts in the country.  All done on my own with no representation.  However beneath the veneer of budding success lie harsh truths.  I have been unable to build an infrastructure for my career.  Unlike a regular job, having a good year does not guarantee anything of the sort next year.  There are no linear promotions in stand up comedy, at least not for the unrepresented among us.  Having a good year in 2016 simply means I will have to redouble efforts in 2017 just to maintain the level I achieved this year and hope for recognition, notice and/or opportunity in 2017 that may allow me to surpass where I am currently.  But the difficulty is that even if you double the money I made in comedy this year I would still need another source of income to continue living the pleasant, but month-to-month existence I have had for the last several years.  So what that amounts to is that as I approach my 14th year in comedy (and look up the lyrics to Guns N Roses’14 years for a solid description) in what at times feels more like compulsion than enjoyment, I will have to work at a pace that didn’t fatigue me when I was working as a full time attorney and open mic comedian 10 years ago, but now exhausts me. And unlike the comedian I was in 2006 a lot has changed since then.  In 2006 I had to worry about stage time, writing and getting clips to bookers. Today there are a dozen social media platforms, YouTube videos and podcasts all of which help you expand a fan base, but all of which take time and energy (in some cases money) and are not stand up comedy.  And without a larger platform, media presence, or gatekeeper, you are only likely to expand linearly (my podcast has grown from 200 to 1000 listeners a week since I started it over 4 years ago, which is nice and from a larger comedy business perspective, completely irrelevant) and in this business exponential growth is needed and is still almost always controlled by powerful players in the business.  However, just like state lotteries, the powerful in and around comedy have no qualm feeding the myth that the average guy with some pluck and a $1 can be the next success.  So as we approach the conclusion of my most successful year as a comedian I offer some words of how comedians can help themselves and how the business can help comedians.  Do I expect any of these to take hold? No. But I need this Starbucks coffee to cool off so might as well write.

Comedians Need a Guild

Having attended law school and practiced as an attorney I wish I were more well versed in labor law, but I am not.  But I do know that stand up comedy needs a guild.  Now I would not expect it to wield as much power or prestige as the Screen Actors Guild, nor provide certain things like health insurance because the economies of comedy clubs are not what they are for film studios, but certain protections and rights need to be enshrined for comedians at some point.  For example – the fact that feature acts continue to be the most squeezed of the three comedian levels (emcees – often locals, entry level, middle acts – who have to do the travelling of headliners and perform more time than emcees for a fraction of the money headliners get).  The pay per show of feature comedians has not gone up in 30 years.  Half the clubs now do not provide lodging for feature acts. That means a feature act, who presumably is the next decade’s headliner (after he or she waits for the Vine stars, Instagram stars and MTV2 stars to leapfrog him or her) must find a way to travel and lodge themselves and hope that frugality and merchandise sales can help them make a little money.  And of course the real reason to do it for net gain of maybe a few hundred dollars is to make contacts, hone your act and possible make some fans.  But this is no longer really a viable path for people to earn a living and become great comedians. Therefore a Guild should guarantee lodging and/or increased pay for features. Now clubs can be organized by levels (colloquially we call them A or B (or C) rooms – based on crowds, location, prestige, etc. and those levels can be required to pay features a certain level. For example if no lodging is provided then an A room would have to pay a feature $150 per show instead of the standard $100 per show.  These are just figures meant to illustrate my point as several clubs already do pay $100 per show plus room, but obviously there is something wrong with a job that is paying the same or less than the same job in 1986 (in real dollars, not adjusted for inflation).  Like America, the Middle Class of comedy has been the one most decimated by cutbacks at clubs. In fact, I would argue that they are the only ones paying.

Another issue I would want a comedy guild to address is an outright ban on clubs managing talent. SAG for many years (I could not find out if the rule was lifted recently) banned talent agencies from producing content because of the obvious conflict of interest.  I manage you; I make a movie; I cast you ahead of other talent and then I collect 10% of the salary I pay you for being in the movie.  However, there are clubs that manage talent, allow that talent to monopolize spots at their club or clubs and then force feed their talent on showcases for networks under the guise of presenting a cream of the crop of talent for networks to select from.  In this age of everyone telling comedians that gatekeepers don’t matter – they still matter a lot.  We can keep producing free content while being sold a false dream or we can wake up and realize that for every Bo Burnham there are 10,000 people producing free content, some of it good, with no shot of breaking through without an established entity or gate keeper paving the way.

These are just two ideas I have regarding a comedy guild, and I realize they, along with other ideas, would require a collective action that the comedy community may not be capable of.  I have said this with some scorn and also some self-blame, but it is hard to organize a labor force when the majority already act and think of themselves as scabs.  New comics are afraid of ruffling feathers, comics with some heat and opportunity are afraid of squandering what feels like a shot at the dream and big time comics are too removed from their struggling days to relate or care about the diminished outlook for comedians today.  Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but with the Internet demanding more of comedians than ever, having a business that is increasingly stacked against the middle class of comedy cannot and should not be tolerated by comedians at any level.

 Facebook is not Your Friend

I have a buddy who is a comedian, but also owns and operates a hugely successful non-comedy Internet company.  He has over 2 million fans on his business Facebook page. And over the last couple of years, as Facebook has approached 2 billion users worldwide it has become more and more difficult for him to reach his fans with posts because of the algorithms Facebook has instituted.  Facebook has become immensely profitable and their answer to that has been to squeeze the people, business and creators that have helped make it successful.  Google pays successful video makers and Twitter does not hide posts – there is still an egalitarian spirit in their business model, unlike Facebook, which basically holds its creators hostage.  Facebook, as many of you know, discourages YouTube videos from being seen. As an example, 3 years ago I had a YouTube video link go viral. It had 81 shares and 200,000 views in 3 days.  Last year I had a video get 80 shares and it had 5,000 views.  There are other factors to explain some disparity, but none to explain that large a disparity other than Facebook’s algorithm.  Now Facebook wants its users to directly upload through Facebook and your reward is the ego boost of more views, but nothing else. No compensation, no credits for ads. Nothing.

Facebook is a media giant. Make no mistake about it.  They deserve to be treated like CBS, ABC and NBC and I hope the criticism from fake news stories being spread finally gets them to wield the power they cultivated with more responsibility.  And as their ads continue to cost more and more money it will reach a point where your feed will be flooded by only the companies and entities that can afford to advertise on radio and television.  So like many things in this country, they are driving their success on the backs of content creators, but making it unaffordable for those creators to get exposure (get exposure and make no money or upload a YouTube clip and get no views).  Once again, at least Google pays people (there are plenty of issues with Google as well, but trying to keep this under 3000 words).  My solution, as unrealistic as it is, would be for comedians to not upload any content directly to Facebook.  Once again, this would have to be some sort of hashtaggy moment to draw attention, but we are now addicted to likes and clicks like a digital heroin, so I know it is unlikely.  Facebook is just another big, bad company, except they actually don’t make anything. They steal ideas from other apps and they use free content from its users.  And comedians should consider themselves one of the main foods on the plate of the social media parasite.

Do Not Use a Label to Produce Your Album(s)

I have self produced 5 albums and self producing has had real financial benefits. This year I will make a little over $15,000 in royalties because I am both the artist AND owner of my material.  I have produced good content, but I have never been able to get a label to produce any of my albums.  Now this comes with a caveat before I continue. If you are a major artist you can negotiate a deal that works for you. Like most things in comedy (and America) if you come into a deal with power you will leave with power and lots of money.  Or if you are an up and coming artist and Comedy Central wants to work with you and produce your album that relationship has immense value for your career because of their reach and their numerous platforms.  However, if you don’t fit into these categories I would advise you to take to heart what you half-heatedly tell yourself when trying to justify continuing a rocky career path: do it yourself.

This is one of the few areas where there is an ability to do it yourself (this assumes you are at a level of skill and talent where your material is at a point where it is worth putting down in an album and can find, if not an audience, at least respect, if people hear it).  I get the breakdown of my royalties each month and it is roughly 47% to the artist and 53% to the  rights owner.  Now I probably make a decent amount relative to most no name comedians, but let’s say you are a comedian with one kick ass album. Maybe your label even negotiated a good deal for you, but bottom line is they will make half of your money in perpetuity of your album(s). Why? Because they put up the up front costs for you and got you a nice venue – it may not be a deal with the Devil, but I assure you it is not angelic either.  Once again the lure of a top notch production and immediate gratification lures comedians to wager their long term benefits.  These labels aggregate albums from big time people and dozens if not hundreds of no-namers like myself.  So while you make $500 a month they may make $550 a month x 100 (or more) comedians. Individually, like class action lawsuits, you have no reason to really challenge, but as a collective comedians could change this industry.

If you look at the iTunes comedy charts you will usually see albums from 5 labels dominating and they will also occupy the “New and Noteworthy” spots with high profile placement.  My album Israeli Tortoise hit #1 on the comedy charts in August, but it had no backing, no label and never got placement as new and noteworthy, even though one might think reaching #1 in its first week might make it both new and noteworthy.  The point is that the only way to change the business is to practice what we preach, or at least pretend to believe.  In an era where music labels, television studios and movie studios face increasing competition, comedians continue to be a reliable source of entertainment slave labor where large companies feed the narrative that “gatekeepers are not necessary” to encourage free content, while simultaneously benefiting from their monopoly on real and concrete opportunity as… gatekeepers.

Of course I must admit that I do not know how each of the major labels operate or the nature of the deals they sign with comedians. I can only extrapolate what I know from my payment breakdown, how I see working no name comics treated by the business and the general lessons of history when powerful interests and business operate without restriction or restraint.

And In Conclusion…

America recently elected Donald Trump president.  This was the insane result of many things and one of them was working class people willing to buy a lie wrapped in a fairy tale because they were desperate to believe something that catered to their anger and diminished clout.  In comedy there is no need for a Trump because it is already run as if Trump is in charge. Contradictory policies, false promises and the middle men and no-namers buy in against their own interests.  As my friend Mike Payne said perfectly (and hopefully now famously?) “Comedians talk about the world like Karl Marx and then become Paul Ryan when speaking about comedy.”  I am not here to say that I am going to burn myself in front of a comedy club like a monk during Vietnam, either literally or metaphorically (though some might say this blog is doing just that), but there is no better industry more emblematic of income inequality and a rigged system than the broken backs of the middle class of comedy.  The question is – will comedians ever band together and do anything about it because it is only getting worse.

Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER &  ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.

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Comedy Central Announces 2016 Roster for The Half Hour

I am happy to announce that after years of blogging about stand up comedy from an insider’s perspective I have my first major, confirmed scoop – Comedy Central will announce their roster of 16 new choices for their stand up series, The Half Hour, in the next month, but I have obtained the list of the chosen comedians this weekend!  Before giving you the specific choices (congrats to all those who have been selected) here is the demographic breakdown: average age 29 years old, average gender: cis male with hipster sensitivities and average beard length: George Clooney when not filming a movie. So without further adieu, please read up and offer congrats to 2016’s choices (who will now realize that they have at least 400 people who consider them close friends):

3 Women – With 2016 being the 5th consecutive year of “the year of women in comedy” it is refreshing that Comedy Central has bumped up their usual number of half hour specials from 2 to 3.  One woman will be a woman of color, one will be an attractive white woman who shares tales of her sexual adventures and one will be a “regular” white girl who hates Tinder and generally hates societal judgment.

4 Bearded White Men – Despite recognizing the importance of reaching the key youthful demographic of sperm, the industry still has a soft spot for the residual effect of Zach Galifianakis blowing up in The Hangover 7 years ago. Beards became all the rage back then and their presence is still with us in the comedy industry’s tastes, as evidenced by 4 bearded white men chosen for this year’s slate (3 awkward, alt personalities and one guy who is a mainstream comedian who just happens to have a beard).

3 Veteran Comedians – These are the spots for skilled comedians with over a decade of experience in stand up (one of who will most likely be recording his or her 2nd Comedy Central Half Hour).  These are nice token gestures by the producers to show that occasionally old people over 28 need to be represented in stand up, even if that forces Comedy Central to commit the sin of including comedians born during or before Reagan’s presidency (who?).

1 D-list celebrity – I won’t name names here, but there is a comedic actor with almost 18 months of stand up experience and over 30,000 Twitter followers who is likely to drop hot fire in a Half Hour this summer (despite his agent trying to strong arm for an hour, known in the industry as “The Donald Glover Deal”).  There is a rumor, however, that this spot may actually be given to a Vine/Instagram celebrity (TBD).

2 Non Threatening Male Comedians of Color – 1 black guy who is a nerd and/or hipster and for the other male POC spot an Asian, a Latino and a Black guy will choose straws on Feb 26th (so specific name TBD).

7 Comedians with 1 Conan Appearance Each – As the only real showcase for stand up on a consistent basis in the late night sphere this may seem like easy picking, but with only 7 chosen, that still leaves 411 1-time Conan appearance comics without a Half Hour.

There is some overlap if you add up the list, but if you think that is a mistake you are wrong and you have the problem – ARE YOU SUGGESTING A WOMAN OF COLOR COULD NOT ALSO BE A GUEST ON CONAN OR THAT A VETERAN COMEDIAN COULDN’T ALSO HAVE A BEARD????? There is overlap here, but this list is confirmed so offer congrats to the comedians and managers who made some dreams come true in 2016.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!

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Who Might, Should and Will Replace Jon Stewart

Yesterday at the end of The Daily Show taping, Jon Stewart, host of the popular and critically acclaimed “fake news” show for 17 years, announced that he will be leaving the show sometime in 2015 (I think –  his announcement was not really that clear or definitive).  But as soon as he announced that he was leaving (perhaps back-to-back losses at the Emmys to Stephen Colbert had finally taken its toll) the Internet was abuzz with who should replace him with irritating ferocity.  Having correctly predicted who would take over for David Letterman I think it is only right to the Internet and my dozen readers that I offer my one of a kind, in depth analysis of who might and who will take over for Stewart.  It is important to keep a few things in mind.  First, Jon Stewart was an accomplished stand up comedian with a lot of TV hosting experience in his youth (an MTV show, a guest host for Tom Snyder after Letterman and he was even the guest host threatening to take over for Larry Sanders on HBO’s terrific The Larry Sanders Show).  Second, the Internet is going to want a woman and/or person of color and will be prepared to set fire to the world if it is another white man.  Third, not withstanding the aforementioned desire of the blogosphere, America has a demonstrable preference to receive their comedy and news, either separately or together, from men.  So with those factors now in the open, it is time for my list:

Bruce Jenner (Name TBD) – What says change and new era of late night than choosing someone who is literally transitioning from a white man to a woman?  He has great name recognition, is used to celebrities and the spotlight and can speak intelligently on sports, entertainment and transgender issues.  It is a long shot, but Jenner’s selection could bring together traditionalists like myself and the far left progressives.

Chris Hardwick – I have sometimes criticized Hardwick’s ubiquitous presence on networks I watch, but my mind was really changed after seeing him on Bill Maher. The guy is sharp and quick though he can sometimes look super tired, a side effect from having almost as many shows as Ryan  Seacrest.  He has experience hosting, is already part of the network and is someone who has mastered social media and has good numbers with key demographics.  An added bonus is that he could then host a show each night at 12:30 recapping his two shows from 11pm and midnight.

Craig Kilborn – The greatest Sports Center anchor of all time and the original father of The Daily Show.  Isn’t it time that the industry gave him another chance?  What’s that?  The show sucked under him?  Well I did go to a taping of it when I was a young buck so it couldn’t have been that bad.

Amy Poehler – The Internet’s favorite choice of the last 16 hours.  Poehler is pleasant and funny enough to do the show, assuming she has a host of male writers behind the scenes.  However, will she be allowed to co-host with Tina Fey every show?  And if your instinctive response to that last question was to say “That would be EVERYTHING” please swallow a shotgun. Ii really hate that phrase.

Justin Timberlake – Sure we have no indication that he can do anything but sing on songs dominated by more talented producers, act poorly and play board games with Jimmy Fallon, but if Fallon is willing to separate from his brother from another mother the name recognition would be huge ratings, at least for a few weeks.  I am sure a vote of confidence from Fallon would at least help JT get his name in the conversation.

Rick Sanchez – You may be asking… who???   Well Rick Sanchez was the exuberant and largely terrible afternoon news anchor on CNN often mocked by Stewart.  Well, what better revenge than to host Stewart’s show.  Sanchez is Cuban, satisfying the no-more-white males-on-Late Night bloggers and he also has experience as a TV host.  But most importantly he is a visionary, obsessed with Twitter and social media interaction for his show far before other people were.  And he knows the news and is not afraid to share opinions about it… even when supposed to be an objective news anchor.

Ryan Seacrest – What’s one more show for this robot?

Neil DeGrasse Tyson – He now has a late night show starting on the Nat Geo channel, but perhaps he could handle a show with more than 480 potential fans.  I sort of want him to be picked because it is time he learned that he is only funny for an astrophysicist.  An embarrassing short run on The Daily Show might raise the platform for science (a good thing) and also humble all the people who call him “cool” when he is a failure at a funny show.  Then his fans will be forced to call him “cool… for an astrophysicist” which is how he should be known.

Beyonce – Is there anything she cannot do?  Well let’s find out!  She is stunning, talented and a black woman.  Even if she is not funny that is irrelevant when she hits all key categories for the no-more-white-males-on-Late Night. If she is funny then it is a bonus.  But most importantly, she is the only selection that will not receive an angry visit from Kanye West.

Al Madrigal – A Daily Show correspondent, an experienced comedian and Latino.  However, with Larry Wilmore on at 11:30 is Comedy Central willing to deliver all of 11pm-midnight to “people of color”?!  Being not well known enough may be a weakness, but it may also play as a strength, allowing him to make the show his own.  And his lack of a vagina would satisfy traditionalists like me.  (Repeat this for Wyatt Cenac except replace “Latino” with “black”)

Jason Jones – He has not been nearly as big a presence on the show as in past years (though admittedly I do not watch nearly as often as I used to) but I have always found him to be the funniest correspondent by far since Ed Helms/Colbert/Carrel era.  He also looks like a more goy-ish Jon Stewart which could retain the current audience, but also potentially bring in Anti-Semites who were hesitant to support Jon Stewart on the basis of his Judaism (while oddly still being politically left – admittedly this Venn Diagram cross section demographic is probably very small).  I think if the job does not go to a big name then it will be Jones.

P.S. I am also available for the job.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!

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Bro-medy Central and the Flat Tax of 5 Dollar…

I have cynically parodied Comedy Central in my tweets, Facebook statuses and blogs over the last couple of years as a network that almost exclusively caters to fraternity date rapists and people who wish Duck Dynasty and ZZ Top had more facial hair. Of course this was just exaggerated criticism.  After all, not all comedy aimed at a certain demographic is bad – Workaholics and Tosh.0 make me laugh a lot, to name a couple of/the only two things aimed at the demographic that make me laugh.  But as a network built on stand up comedy, clearly it has to respect the art form and not pander exclusively to 18-24 year old men who have less disposable income anyway, due to poor employment figures among young people, right?

“Our demographic is bros.  So do more jokes on weed and hooking up and getting drunk.”

This was the explicit advice (I double checked to make sure “bros” was actually used – it was) given to a friend of mine whose look is youthful, but whose material was more family-oriented (as in about family, not G-rated cheese) by Comedy Central folks putting together a stand up showcase.  But at least now the secret is out. Congratulations bros!  You are now the biggest driving force of the biggest  platform in comedy!  As Comedy Central, or as I will now call it, Bro-medy Central, continues to consolidate power (more influence at Sirius XM comedy radio, selling content for $5 – following Louis CK’s lead) comedians will suffer.

QUICK SIDEBAR HERE – Louis CK selling his content for $5 has been great for fans, great for Louis CK and shi*ty for lesser known comedians seeking to market their own quality merchandise.  What CK did was the equivalent of what Amazon.com did by selling their Kindles at a loss – they give a great deal to customers and set the market rate too cheap for Book publishers and sellers to compete with, ensuring their eventual downfall.  However, these are huge businesses that need to adapt and have resources, built in revenue sources and reputations among consumer bases.  In the case of the $5 special from CK – he has set the bar that the “best” can sell material for $5 so why should an up and comer or an unknown veteran be able to sell their album for an unconscionable $9.99 on iTunes or $8.99 on Amazon?!  CK (and Bro-medy Central, following his lead with their treasure trove of specials) have the clout and leverage to cut out middle men (or in Bro-medy’s case they are their own middle man) and still make a ton of money.  But lesser known artists need those middle men to raise their profile and as a result, their income.

This is the same problem I see with a flat tax often supported by wealthy people (or people who think they will one day be wealthy) – Ten percent tax on $1 billion may be $100 million and that is a ton of tax revenue, but that billionaire will have little problem living on $900 million.  However, for the man making $20,000, a $2,000 hit is tough because there are minimum amounts of money needed to be a self-sufficient member of society.  Now it seems egalitarian and fair, but in practice it is going to be a much more devastating punch in the gut to the lower end.

Similarly, the expectations that content should be even cheaper or free, is not helped by people like CK selling their stuff for wholesale.  He is welcome to do what he wants obviously, and his fans are right to appreciate it, but it should not make him a hero to comedians.   In a few weeks my new album will be downloadable for free, as a cross-promotion with my 9 episode comedy web series (free).  This is all in an effort to hit the comedy lottery.  That is the problem.  Making a marginally decent living at comedy is more and more difficult so now it is an all or nothing gamble for more and more artists.  So I will put out high quality web videos and an excellent album for free, in the hope/wish that people with connections will hear and appreciate what I do and then elevate me right past “struggling feature” to “known headliner.” In other words, as I have said, the middle class in America is dying and the middle class in comedy is dead.  You are either a hobbyist/local, at the bottom of the food chain, but not really caring because it is not your main source of income; or you are someone who is making good to great money at comedy.  And then in the middle are people who face the economic and artistic decisions to either fade back into the bottom category or to go for it all and try to be in the upper level category.  

OK maybe that was not such a short sidebar.  The point is, as the members of the elite continue to make their comedy products cheaper (Louis is not losing much of his end of the money by the way – just the producers and distributors who are losing their share – iTunes pays out $6.37 for an album at $9.99 so they are losing $3.62, but CK is only losing $1.37 per unit by selling directly from his website and cutting out sellers like iTunes) and the Bro-medy Central/Viacom giant  following suit, all while coalescing around a narrow brand of bro-focused comedy, the opportunities for quality comedians to make a living are tougher and tougher and fewer and fewer.  YouTube and Facebook used to represent democratized opportunities that evened the playing field a little bit, but now enhanced algorithms designed to generate revenue for those sites favor the moneyed interests in entertainment (though of course some things can go viral that are not part of those, without that lottery shot, many people might not find uploading to YouTube fun anymore).

Everyone says that there are phases and cycles in comedy, but I don’t want my prime and that of some of my peers disregarded because we are living during the Bro era of comedy.  It would be like finding out you hit 300 home runs in the steroid era in baseball – no one gives a sh*t, no matter how quality and honest your play was.  I just hope that some rival can arise to Comedy Central if this is the direction they want to continue – but the problem is, just like in politics, once the money gets too big, things become entrenched.  But they should be forced to change their channel name from Comedy Central to Bro Central.  That way people will no what the main qualification was for their new talent.  Because if people start assuming tat what they see is automatically the industry standard for quality stand up it may erode the reputation of stand up.  I think we can all agree it would be much better for Bro Central to destroy the reputation of bros, then for Comedy Central to destroy the reputation of stand up (or else you might think that their UP NEXT contest in which established comedians (I was not in the contest so this is unbiased) were all miraculously beat out by younger, fresher talent – i.e. using better comics to bolster the contest’s reputation, seemingly validating younger comics as their equals and superiors when they advance).  Oh well, off to make my best album free and set my DVR to Kroll Show.  #Blessed

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on PodomaticiTunes and NOW on STICHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe on one or more platforms today – all for free!

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The Marginalizing of Stand Up Comedy Festival

I woke up this morning and opened up my copy of the New York Times.  There were stories about the Boston bombing, an editorial about the dysfunction of my former employer, the Bronx District Attorney’s office, but beyond terrorism and delays in justice there was a story on the cover of the business section of the paper that really caused me to gag.  The article was about Comedy Central’s new comedy festival taking place next week.  The article was reporting on #ComedyFest – a comedy festival that comedy central is “having” next week.  As the article highlights “there will be no smokey comedy clubs… no two drink minimums” because the whole “festival” will take place on Twitter and Vine.  Because what comedy needs is even more conditioning to shorten attention spans.

Comedy Central is really the most significant platform for stand up comedy by a significant margin, but in a strategy that seems to be part-over saturation – in a decade they managed to marginalize the impact of their signature stand up series “Comedy Central Presents,” and part pandering – catering to “millennials,” – a short-attention span generation with record highs in narcissism and record lows in employment a/k/a spending power, they are marginalizing stand up at a rate that would make MTV’s usage of music jealous.

I am sure I am just being a curmudgeon and a hater, but when the main station for comedy and stand up is promoting and pushing for people to enjoy tweets and 6 second videos, what future does stand up comedy really have?  Maybe in a few years live stand up comedy will be called “Long Form Stand Up” or “he practices that old school form of stand up – no memes, no tweets, just 30-45 minutes talking into a microphone!”  Perhaps stand up’s best days are already behind it, but it should still look back, not to reminisce, but to make sure Comedy Central is not coming to strangle it to death.  #LookOut

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes

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A Hater’s Valentine to The Real Husbands of Hollywood

Today is Valentine’s Day and I am currently feeling very amorous feelings.  Mainly because the Wednesday crowd at Helium bought over $100 of CDs and “Live Angry” wrist bands last night.  So headed into a big weekend at Helium positive vibes are flowing from my usually cynical and negative pen.  If you need to hear me trash Valentine’s Day then feel free to check out this week’s Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes or Podomatic.  But since I spend so much time trashing so much of the comedy business (rightfully and righteously so) I thought why not take a break to praise something (besides myself) in comedy that took me completely by surprise: The Real Husbands of Hollywood.

The show, on BET (not Bearded Entertainment Television – that is Comedy Central) stars Kevin Hart, the super successful comedian from Philadelphia who is having a monster last couple of years.  Full disclaimer, I don’t really enjoy Hart’s comedy.  I think it is heavy on friendly persona and tag lines and short on everything else (at 5’2″, dark, rich and friendly Kevin Hart will never be mistaken for me).  But who gives a sh*t – the man is making money and is at least not using instruments or puppets to make it.  Co-starring on the show are the loud comedian JB Smoove, actor Duane Martin, singer Robin Thicke, actor Boris Kodjoe and Mr. Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon.

Everyone on the show except Martin would give me reason to be annoyed or a hater.  JB Smoove generally annoys me with his loudness and buffoon-like black man portrayal on “white” shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm; Nick Cannon headlines comedy clubs (please correct me if he is a “real” comedian and I will stand corrected); Kodjoe is married to Nicole Parker who made me happy in Boogie Nights; and Robin Thicke is married to Paula Patton who almost made Tom Cruise’s brilliant sprinting in Mission Impossible 4 an afterthought.

If Vegas were making odds on me hating the show based on all that information they would be 1:100 odds.  Well, in one of the biggest upsets in entertainment history I enjoy the show.

The show is smart – a detail-oriented parody of the reality shows of VH1 and Bravo that plays with the conventions of the “genre” if we can call the Ebola virus of television programming a genre.  Confessionals get overheard by other characters, the editing and music are just slightly exaggerated versions of the genre’s standards and the characters even borrow a little bit of Modern Family/The Office/Parks and Recreation looks to the camera (but only sparingly since people are starting to get a little bored of that trend).

But what makes the show extra funny, to me at least, is that many of the guys poke fun at themselves in ways that people like me would hit them with.  Hart furthers his brand as likable by making himself the butt of most jokes.  He is no Jim Carrey when it comes to physical comedy, but he is still pretty damn good at it.  JB Smoove is toned down (slighlty) and all but defended himself on the show during a fight by claiming that he is on all sorts of white shows and that white people love his sh*t.  And Cannon, who is perceived as Mr. Carey, goes out of his way to be a power player and to be the foil to Hart.  Martin was mocked for never being able to be cast in a movie that did not involve basketball and Kodjoe was mocked as an unemployed pretty-boy.  This may seem like a simple formula – laugh at self-deprecating celebrities, but it is executed really well.  It feels like a silly guilty pleasure, which it is, but it is also very smartly crafted.

What is really shocking about this show to me though, is that it is not on Comedy Central.  Kevin Hart is the most successful comedian working right now and JB Smoove hosted Russel Simmons comedy show a few years ago on the network.  Was the show just pitched to BET or did Comedy Central reject it?  Or low ball Kevin Hart?  Just seems weird that a funny show, with popular comics would not make it onto the network.  But I guess black guys in their 30s and 40s do not really fit into any demographic that Comedy Central is trying to appeal to.  So do yourself a favor when you are done cutting yourself during an episode of Kroll Show (chuckled at the first episode, have not been able to finish an episode since) and check out Real Husbands of Hollywood On Demand.

Back to hating next week.

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The Death of Stand Up Comedy

I have not been blogging with nearly the same regularity as I have in the past.  There are several reasons for this (fewer funny road stories, over-saturation in the marketplace with blogs about everything, lack of motivation, etc.).  Now I have recommitted to writing a little more frequently, but one of the things I probably won’t be writing about nearly as much is the thing that has gotten me the most readers: the stand up comedy business.  It is because I believe that stand up comedy, as we knew it or like to think of it, is dying.  There is such an overwhelming perfect storm of factors that are contributing to destroying the prominence and art of stand up comedy that I no longer view it as a viable career option for myself, nor a community or industry for which I have much remaining passion.  Naturally I still get great pleasure from writing, working out material and then seeing it work in front of “regular people,” but that feeling is the lone positive swimming against a tsunami of negatives.  So let’s go through all the reasons why stand up is on life support:

1. Crushing The Middle Class of Comedy.  As I have written before (please read this one as well – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2304), just as the middle class of America is being left behind in an increasingly unequal society, feature work – the best way to become a competent and skilled comedian, is no longer a viable way of making a living.  For those of you that do not understand the industry lingo – the feature act is the comedian that goes between the emcee and the person you are there to see.  They receive about a half hour to get the audience drunk and really ready for a long set of comedy.  The fact is that feature work used to be a way to make a modest living if you were good enough (features in the 1980s were being paid as much or more in actual dollars, not adjusted, than features in 2012).  I had an old school booker tell me a couple of years ago that it would take ten years to become an excellent feature.  His timetable feels about right.  Of course for most people in the YouTube/Twitter/Tumblr world this is far too long a time table.  So now, more than ever it is difficult to make your focus and goal to be a great comedian, unless you are doing things other than comedy.  Then, if you are doing enough you will leapfrog the process and become a headliner, but not necessarily because your stand up chops are undeniable or even ready.  So instead of nurturing good comedians, good comedians must develop in spite of the lack of incentives and opportunities.

2. Everyone Wants To Be Heard.  The last year of stand up “scandals” have proven how self-absorbed the comedy community has become with its own news.   The competition to be the first to weigh in on any little blip on the comedy scene is pretty fierce.   Every comedian with six month’s or more of experience  has begun to weigh in on every issue that arises.  I have certainly done my share, but usually in the context of not liking the general trajectory of the comedy business, not for just a gut reaction response to an isolated incident.  Every one of these incidents gets play in the national media as the chatter builds up (the New York Times covered the Daniel Tosh incident close to a week after it had achieved viral status).  For me the Tosh incident should have been a non-issue.  Instead we collectively raised it to the level of a national conversation.  The short summary of this is that comedy is becoming a bunch of people cyber shouting and offering their input (regardless of writing talent or experience in comedy) and not spending time trying to be funny.  Not the best way for talent to develop, but of course the name of the game is to get noticed and worry about being funny later.  As an example – watch the inevitable next time some man makes a comment about gender and humor.  The uproar will be fast and furious from many people you have never heard of, while those who have made it or are on their way will be too busy writing new material and working to weigh in.

3. The Anti-Bullying Culture Joins Forces With Political Correctness.  Our society has become semi-obsessed with eradicating bullying.  I suppose in a post 9/11 world we need to get terror, wherever it lies, including 5th grade classrooms.  I would not want my kids to be bullied, but if a few taunts got my 12 year old to jump off a bridge I would also have to examine my own parenting and whether I had missed signs of severe depression, not just if kids teased him.  Perhaps if we gave 8 year olds fewer participation trophies and stopped making sure every kid at a birthday party, not just the birthday boy or girl, got a present, then maybe kids wouldn’t be so frail by the time they hit 15.  I am not saying there are not cases of individual torment that go into the Stephen King level of bullying, but why have we reached this alleged epidemic/crisis of bullying today?

Along those lines, comedy, once the bastion of free speech like no other art form, is now under attack.  Daniel Tosh makes a rape joke.  Tracy Morgan makes a homophobic joke in reference to his son.  Dane Cook talks about fu*king a woman with a chain saw.  I did not even bother to look at what George Lopez said on his special because I no longer cared what the protesters had to say.  I am a big believer that discrimination is still rampant in this country. As a half-black man who looks Egyptian or Italian, depending on the season, I hear far too many comments that make me sad and frustrated (because the Italian looking dude is probably down with racist stuff too, right?).  But have things gotten so good in America that now stand up comedy has to be sanitized?  People have lost sight of what kind of art form comedy was and now think they can place their agenda on it because they were offended.  It is an art form built, in part, on pushing boundaries and language.  More so, I was particularly disappointed with comedian/actor TJ Miller’s response to Dane Cook’s joke because it meant that not only were ignorant comedy fans treating stand up comedy like school plays, but comics themselves were adding their inside-the-business opinions, thus giving credence to the idea that comedy and speech on stage should be curtailed, or at least making a big show of their disapproval when it did not meet their ethical standards.  In no way does this mean that I approve or like any of the material in question.  But I do believe that outside of incidents like Michael Richards’ Kramer’s infamous N-bomb parade, which was not comedy in any way, anything said on stage is fair game.

So I will ignore these stories from now on.  They simply reflect a society that is growing out of touch with comedy (and thanks to social media – every perceived transgression can now have the effect of an atom bomb on-line) and a growing cadre of comedians who want aggression they disagree with taken out of comedy (e.g. there will be no uproar from the comedy community about jokes insulting faith and religion, but God forbid a joke on gender or race gets too edgy).

4. Not Everything is Stand Up Comedy, Nor Should It Be.  Bill Burr stirred another “comedy controversy” with his comments about alternative comedy earlier this year.  Here is what I think alternative comedy has done. On the plus side it has allowed everyone with any voice to be considered comedy. Some are very funny.  Most are not.  If I had my druthers I would take everyone with an instrument or a puppet operating as comedians and ban them from anything where stand up is performed (of course this is an aside, as no one considers these performers “alt.”).  But stand up has become very inclusive.  Too inclusive if you ask me, which you didn’t.  I would compare alternative comedy to Amazon’s publishing business.  They are making it easier for authors to self-publish, cut out the middle man and reach audiences they otherwise wouldn’t have.  However, the vetting process and the machinery of publishing still give a book a certain seal of approval, as if an official vetting has occurred and it is worth considering.  Now, as I already said, the clubs and the club system have failed as well, but that does not mean that every non sequitur spewing, act out champion needs to be considered the torch bearer for Pryor, Rock, Carlin, Giraldo just because there is a niche following for it in dank basements.  One of the things that made stand up comedy hard, even before the current difficulties, is that it was hard to do.  But it now feels like there is a moral relativism in comedy where nothing can be judged, everything can be funny and just as valid a form of stand up.  So what if you cannot write jokes as well or deliver as compelling a performance – just do something weird with a weird look or fashion sense and there is a place for you!   There have always been character based comedians or off-beat comedians, but with one Late Night Show basically dedicated to alternative comedy and a powerful presence on both coasts, they now have a platform bigger than their quantity of quality can bear.  Sure, you can say that people “don’t get it,” but maybe some of the comedians performing this stuff don’t get it either.

5. Comedy Central.  Imagine if there was a channel called Broadway Live.  And on it you could watch every play on Broadway on basic cable.  More people would get exposed to the theater and this would be great until the theater began to lose its cache.  Then it would be a disaster.  There would be a demand for content that Broadway Live would have to churn out which would dilute the quality of content as well as people’s perception of theater as something t partake in live as a cultural experience.  Watching Comedy Central these days feels the same way.  They had to change the name of “Comedy Central Presents” to “The Half Hour” a not-so subtle suggestion that the signature stand up show on the network had lost its cache and power.  Just as The Tonight Show is no longer a kingmaker for a comedian (the loss of Johnny Carson and the advent of Comedy Central probably played a role in that), Comedy Central Presents does not seem to have the power it once did.  Unlike the first several seasons where every comedian performing on them was either a phenom or a veteran with chops, now it feels very hit and miss.  The benefits of Comedy Central to comedians cannot be understated, but the pendulum feels like it may have swung into over-saturation and under-delivering in quality.  It is the same reason why CNN has to show Lindsay Lohan stories – because they have too much time and not enough news for the time.  This may sound like I have an ax to grind, but I don’t. This perspective was really informed by all the older comics I worked with on the road who noticed a real difference pre and post-Comedy Central.  Once again, as I stated in item #1, Comedy Central is a great platform for the rich to get richer, but the business for many comedians has also probably been hurt long term by Comedy Central’s existence.

6. Social Media.  I am including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook in this.  Now do not get confused. Social media is a great way for people to see your material and learn about you, if you are both lucky and savvy with the tools it provides.  But it has also cheapened comedy to be some sort of instantaneous short attention span exercise on par with a page a day calendar (remember those things?).  Now every comedian has to have some kind of Internet presence and there is both an embarrassment of riches and a rich number of embarrassments on social media pushing comedy content.  The market is so flooded that at the end of a work day people have probably gotten their fill of comedy.  And then people not only devalue the work of stand up comedians, but because of their proximity to them on social media can see themselves on the same level as some comedians.  When comedians lose both their cache and their perception of humor superiority over regular folk, it is not a good recipe for stand up.

7. Youth Over Talent.  In breaking news a sperm was picked for the Just For Laughs Festival because they wanted someone young and fresh with 5 minutes of material.  I remember being told early in the last decade, along with other friends who have achieved small amounts of success, that the key to making it in comedy was to write, perform, gain experience, find your voice and have something to say to people.  Now that some of my friends and I have wrapped up a decade in comedy and have developed voices and material, the comedy business has made a marked shift to youth being the paramount factor.  It seems comedians are being vetted like old Hollywood starlets – give me a face I can market (slightly different criteria for comedians than starlets), hopefully they have a little bit of something to work with and then we will get them on television, then they can headline clubs and hopefully along the way they develop an act.  And maybe this is a good business model (and of course I am not saying that there are not very talented young comics out there), but when the top criterion on many comedy booker/manager/festival producers list is “young,” can that really be in the best long term interests of stand up comedy?  Perhaps we have already reached the point of no return where stand up is now closer to def poetry slamming,

8. Celebrity Culture.  Comedy, like a lot of our culture, is now, more than ever, driven by fame. Here is a piece I wrote last year about Charlie Sheen’s comedy tour and I think it holds up today (https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2254).  I have placed a lot of blame on the inner workings and failures of people within comedy, but we are now living in a Real Housewives/Kardashian world of entertainment.  Celebrity is enough to warrant entertainment empires.  So although #1-#7  are hurtful, they probably are less damaging to stand up combined than the culture shift in general.  Everyone thinks they can be a celebrity because they can be.  So why would they even care about people with talent?  Stand Up comedy is becoming to entertainment was print is to journalism and what manufacturing is to the United States, a relic growing more irrelevant or at least less powerful every year.  Sure there are examples like Louis CK, but the New York Times is doing well, does that not mean that journalism is still in trouble?

As is clear from what I wrote, many of these factors are affecting other walks of life, but comedy is getting hit with most of our culture’s bad trends all at once in heavy doses.  So hopefully some of these things are cyclical, but sadly I think many of them are here to stay and will only get worse.

I’m off to watch Batman die now (allegedly?).  Maybe that will cheer me up.

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The Elephant In The Room at the Comedy Awards

This weekend, the 2nd Annual Comedy Awards took place. These are the awards where comedians do what every other industry does for itself, while maintaining enough of a distance so as to still plausibly mock the idea of awards shows.

As I followed some of the results via Twitter the name Louis CK kept coming up.  No big surprise there.  He has established himself as the man of the moment in comedy.  A sort of infallible figure of fallibility for comedy fans.  His show “Louie” won best show, in the alternative show category, helping it avoid a showdown with comedy series winner “Parks and Recreation.”

But as a stand up comic I was most interested in seeing who won best stand up special. The nominees were Louis CK, Daniel Tosh, Colin Quinn, Patton Oswalt and Norm MacDonald.  First I will offer my opinion that of the nominees (for their specials, not their bodies of work) I would have CK no higher than third. MacDonald’s special was better and Colin Quinn’s Broadway show was absolutely terrific.

But CK’s special represented a game changer, or so I was repeatedly told.  He bucked the industry by self-producing his own special.  Jim Gaffigan and Aziz Ansari copied his model.  Now, thanks to Louis’ example, at least a dozen comedians can do this. Maybe even two dozen. And after that, I don’t think it will have any effect on the careers of individual comedians. The widespread distribution and opportunities offered by television are still needed by almost all comedians to get to the next level.  Did CK change the game? Or did he just demonstrate that after decades of climbing within the ranks of the business he now has the clout to reject it?  And before continuing I must say, because, as I have learned, when people read my posts with their own pre-dispositions, they read what they want out of my words, that this is still a compliment to CK.  He made a brilliant decision for HIS career.  My only qualm is the extrapolation that fans have made from his career to the rest of the industry. If he has changed the game then he is bigger than just a comedian and therefore worthy of cultural icon status, which may have already occurred.  But if, as I would contend, he has not changed the game, but merely his own game, then some of the praise heaped on him is overblown and is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of greatness around all that he produces, regardless of whether it is actually always great or not.

Louis CK

The last time I remember a comedian becoming as big (and CK is now bigger) as this was Dane Cook.  Dane Cook had a methodical, social media-driven, hard work climb over 10+ years to become the biggest name in comedy.  But the backlash against Cook was swift and furious.  Probably because the comedy community and the public at large had no real qualms about bashing a young, fit, charismatic performer, regardless of how well he did for stand up comedy as a business. Louis seems to be bulletproof.  Some of his invincibility comes from his soft underbelly, literally:   his words are harsh and honest, but his delivery device is humble and not intimidating.  Almost all friends of mine who are CK devotees acknowledge to me that they did not think that the Beacon Theater special was his best work and that there were more worthy specials this year.  But because of the “game changing” aspect of the special it was worthy.  But as I already indicated, I don’t really think it changed the game.  The same way George Carlin claimed voting was just the illusion of power, at this point, only those entertainers who already have power, can wield enough power to buck the system.  So if it was not the best special of the year (or at least not definitively) and not truly game changing, what is the justification?

Dane Cook

My biggest disappointment in seeing the nominees and the eventual winner though, was the absence of the late, great Patrice O’Neal.  In a twist of sad irony to this post, Louis actually dedicated the Beacon Theater special to the memory of O’Neal.  O’Neal passed away late last year, but not before leaving the comedy community with Elephant In The Room, which is really just a notch below Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain for me on my all time favorite comedy specials, and Mr. P, his hilarious album, released posthumously.  I remember watching Elephant In The Room and thinking “this is going to get Patrice the next-level recognition he deserves.”  I thought it was hands down the best special of the year. No distribution gimmicks, no hype, just great stand up.  The silver lining to his tragic death should have been an increased visibility and respect for his work.  But then, late last year I noticed a poll on a comedy website that had eleven or so comedians up for “Favorite Comedian of the Year” and he was not even on the list.  And then the Comedy Awards did not even NOMINATE Elephant in The Room

Patrice O'Neal

Now people reading this who are already pre-disposed to embrace all that is Louis CK will probably just call me a hater.  I’ll admit there are a ton of comedians whose comedy I like more than Louis CK (if you want to know, Bill Burr and Chris Rock are my favorite living comedians).  But I also greatly respect CK’s dedication, his work ethic and and the prominence that he has brought to stand up.  If you are not quite at the “fu*k you J-L you hater” level, then maybe you would like to say “Hey J-L, I respect your opinion, but why is it so wrong for Louis to have won this? He is a great comic and it is all subjective anyway, right? How is your opinion ‘better’ than mine?”  Go watch Elephant in The Room and the Beacon Theater special and tell me there is not a difference.  And it is also just the notion that CK was crowned the way Adele was at the Grammies.  I don’t like a comedy world where we sort of have a coronation.  Even Carlin’s second to last special sucked and it was reviewed as such. But he came back and did a great one for what would be his last special.  That is how comedy should work.  You are only as good as your last show. Sure fans will give you a break because they are your fans, but should an entire industry be giving the same blind loyalty to a performer? That is largely what makes it difficult, especially when you reach that upper echelon.  You have to produce new material regularly and it has to meet the high standards you have established for yourself.  Dane Cook tapered off after his hard-earned climb to the top and he was crucified for it.  For Louis CK, however,  it seems that there is no objectivity even allowed because the comedy community is so enamored with him (“Did you think his last special was an A+ or an A++? A B+? Well fu*k you you jealous hater!”).  There is a lot to appreciate and respect about CK and I have laughed at plenty of his material.  But every so often, the avalanche of adoration impedes a deserved and justified opportunity for someone else.  I think the Comedy Awards, for whatever they are worth, did Patrice O’Neal and stand up comedy a great disservice by not awarding, let alone failing to nominate, Elephant In The Room.

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Jeff Dunham Announces New Puppets For 2012!

Great news for the millions of Jeff Dunham fans – he has announced a new roster of puppets to satisfy his followers who thirst for new and cutting edge material.  Known for turning all white crowds into def jam audiences with his hilarious puppets like “Crotchety Old Guy,” “Purple Dude,” “Mexican Pepper,” and everyone’s favorite “Terrorist Skeleton,” (admittedly I have seen Dunham’s work, but have not paid much attention to the names) Dunham has decided to create five new characters for his 2012 tour.  Based on the core of Dunham’s wild success, which is producing mild humor through blandly prejudiced or stereotypical puppets, his new characters will continue his brand.  He will offer fresh material through his new voices that can only be categorized as “Diet Mencia.”  So look out in 2012 for the Dunham Fab Five:

 

Purple Dude and professional puppeteer

Santorum – Dressed in his traditional sweater vest, Santorum is everyone’s favorite woman hating puppet.  He has been getting big laughs by telling crowds that he only performs comedy for the purposes of conception and that no one should go to college (applause line).  And nothing gets the crowd laughing more than when he throws tiny stones at Dunham during arguments.

Bachmann – After complaints from various comedy lobbying groups about Dunham only having one female puppet, Dunham has added a another female to the lineup. She wins the crowd over by asking if any men want objects in their butt because “that’s how we do it in the Bachmann home.” She also mocks Dunham for his belief that science is responsible for the microphone producing sound, much to the delight of the crowd.

Herman Cain – Wearing a pimp hat, Herman Cain is the Dunham puppet that can’t stop chatting it up with all the ladies in Dunham’s audiences.  He always kills crowds with his Dunham-penned catchphrases of “I loves white womens,” and “I got 9 inches for 9 ladies starting at 9 tonight!”

Nothing pleases a Dunham (or Republican) crowd more than hearing Herman Cain rip poor people, black people and his love of white women!

Nuge – armed with a guitar that fires bullets, Nuge is Dunham’s highest energy puppet since “Purple Dude.”  When Dunham insists that President Obama is not a Muslim, Nuge proudly declares that he will “leave the stage in a laundry hamper” if Dunham doesn’t recant. When Dunham gives in it usually gets a standing ovation.

Nuge is a crowd pleaser.

The Ghost of Trayvon Martin – giving Terrorist Skeleton a run for his money as Dunham’s new closer, this puppet comes dressed in his traditional hoodie, holding a pack of skittles and iced-tea, both of which he tosses to a lucky fan during the set.  The Trayvon puppet gets Dunham’s crowds howling with laughter with lines like “The New Black Panthers are going to get you,” and “The last time I killed this bad I was running from neighborhood watch!”

So get those tickets now – as they will undoubtedly sell out.